This week, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum decided that the time to quit his upset bid had finally come. He shuttered a campaign that had risen from the depths to become a surprising success and, for a time, a real burr in former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's side. But with the heavy risk of flaming out for a second time in his home state, Santorum opted to go out on as high a note as possible, and in so doing, he officially made the primary season a secondary concern.
Yes, Texas Rep. Ron Paul still has some leverage to wield, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has some shout left in him, but this race has ended up where we mostly thought it would, with Romney as the GOP standardbearer and President Barack Obama as the incumbent hoping to hold forth. Neither man is unprepared for this matchup. Romney has, almost from the beginning, spent more time looking past his fellow GOP contenders and kept his eyes on his eventual general election opponent. And the Obama campaign never indulged too heavily in the speculation that one of Romney's competitors was going to end up tripping Mitt at the finish line. Each has anticipated the other, and by and large, so have we all.
Now, the question that gets raised is what sort of race we should expect from here. On that regard, Politico's John Harris predicts that the coming campaign will be a model of "self-restraint in an age of rage."
The general election will pit one exceptionally self-contained, self-disciplined, self-motivated man against another with precisely the same traits.
Voters have a choice between two men whose minds gravitate to rationality and logic — both of whom have expressed disdain for the disorder and surliness that pervade modern governance.
There may be more than coincidence at work with this seeming paradox. During a time when politics is defined by media saturation and relentless attacks, there is a premium on politicians who live by an ethic of constant self-control.
It sure is pretty to think that this is what's likely to happen. But this week's "Rosengate" flap suggests otherwise. This is a matter we've already opined at length about, so we won't repeat ourselves. But the whole incident demonstrated that civility can go out the window entirely when the right buttons get pressed. In this case, we had Romney's yawning gender gap, and the vulnerability that poses for him, intersecting with the traditional "leave the spouses out of it" rule of decorum.
The result: a silly vendetta. The Romney team went full-teeth after someone who's got nothing at all to do with the campaign. The Obama team ordered its allies to go out with a baseball bat and not return until they'd managed to get a Hilary Rosen-shaped dent embedded in the wood. Whatever value there was to be had in a discussion about women or moms or the economy got lost. The only thing Romney gained was an opportunity to push the assassination joke by his new backer, Foster Friess -- and the sixth birthday of "Romneycare" -- out of the headlines. The only benefit to Obama was a cheap scoring of a "Sista Soulja moment." And in the end, the entire contretemps only really had salience with the cosseted elites of the Beltway and the media by which it is served.
But one of your Speculatroners' regular readers emailed in with a good point: If Hilary Rosen had made the same comments two months ago, no one would have said a blessed word about it. And that's the difference between the primary season and what we're on to now. We're no longer in the part of the process where Romney gets shot at and he has to abide by Reagan's 11th Commandment and stay his hand. It's open season on everybody now.
We'd like to believe in the fantasy that Harris is describing, but we don't. (In fact, we think that all Harris is doing is setting up the "I'm so disappointed in the direction the election has taken" article that he already plans to write.) This week's sharp turn into rage was predictable, considering last week's kerfuffle between Reince Priebus and Democratic rapid-responders, who bypassed arguing a substantive point and went straight to trying to score cheap points arguing Priebus' metaphor.
But here's all you need to remember. Obama is happy to wage a negative campaign. Romney has already calculated that lying will need to be a key feature of his campaign (and his surrogates have actually admitted this). And both of these guys will be backed by stacked super PACs, that only really exist to allow someone affiliated with the campaign to get elbow-deep in the dank.
So we're at a crossroads here, and the candidates have choices. They could wage a high-minded campaign, rooted in substance, and wage a valuable debate that edifies and empowers voters. Or they could choose a nasty, brutish, interminable slog to November. We'd love to see the former, but we predict the latter.
Elsewhere on the campaign trail, the smooth road for Gary Johnson's quest for the Libertarian Party nomination hit a roadblock, Newt Gingrich expanded his fight with Romney to a fight with a former employer, Ron Paul's campaign waged an unseen battle in Missouri that could presage his future, Obama's campaign battled ts own sense of cockiness, and Rick Santorum had a surprisingly potent bid for respectability. For all of this and the rest of the news from the rapidly receding campaign trail, please feel free to enter the Speculatron for the week of April 13, 2012.
Even before Rick Santorum made his decision to abandon his pursuit of the nomination, Romney had essentially established his inevitability. And once Santorum dropped out, it was all over but for the shouting. And while Santorum's departure brought with it a slew of endorsements that were hardly courageous ones, being within sight of the summit nevertheless came with big benefits: Big Oil's getting all in with the Romney campaign, and he'll be taking home a larger share of former Santorum Super PACker Foster Friess' money as well. Nonetheless, Romney still starts the general election in a position that few would envy. He's a pretty generic Republican figure -- an intense beige that only gets colorful when one considers his historically unprecedented favorability problems and the fact that he's best known for designing a health care innovation that has, in the four years since his last run, gone from being holy writ to anathema. But Romney has more time to make up this ground than most pundits seem to want to give him credit for having, and that hard work is now well underway. The "fence mending" has begun, and the great "pivot" is on. In a good sign, pro-life activists seem to have resigned themselves to the fact that they're going to have to support the candidate they liked the least. The GOP's top gay donors, on the other hand, haven't quite gotten there yet. But the more pressing problem for Romney is the canyon sized gender gap that's opened up as a result of the primary season and its attendant foolishness. Here, Romney's working to turn his liability into a weapon, in an attempt to make the case that the actual "war on women" has been the job losses their cohort has suffered because of the Obama administration's policies. This is going to be a tough charge to make stick, if only because the massive job loss that transpired over the past years came during the time between the autumn of 2008, when Obama wasn't president, and the period up until the stimulus plan took effect and aid started getting out to vulnerable job-holders. It also doesn't help that Romney's claim is predicated on a willfully myopic interpretation of available labor statistics. It also doesn't help that the Romney campaign didn't seem to understand that at some point, they'd be asked for their position on the Lily Ledbetter Act. Our own Sam Stein, who put the query to Romney surrogates expecting a simple answer, was fairly surprised when the campaign was unprepared to talk about it, and needed some time to think it over. It is perhaps unsurprising, however, when you consider that the women Romney enlisted to argue on his behalf are more-or-less exclusively opposed to equal pay protections for women, and that while the campaign eventually promised to continue the law established by the Act, antipathy for pay equity is plainly just a part of Romney's DNA. But if this week's flap with Hilary Rosen proved anything, it demonstrated that on the gender-gap issue, the Romney campaign is a cornered, rabid animal, and as such, they're willing to fight back with an insane frenzy if anyone gets too close. Even if that means having to tell a lot of "whoppers" about Rosen being intimately involved in the Obama White House and campaign. (Those who have decided that they're willing to die on this hill seem to want to point to the fact that people named "Hilary Rosen" have visited the White House 35 times, whilst disregarding the rather obvious fact that Presidential advisers are expected to show up for work with much greater regularity. This is the point at which "Rosengate" breeds its own version of Birther loonies.) But none of this means that Romney's women and jobs argument can't be made to work. Let's recall that this month's jobs report didn't exactly contain the champagne-and-fireworks numbers that previous months had offered. Economic fundamentals still largely mirror electoral fundamentals, and if recovery stagnates or reverses, Romney will likely find that this argument will gain traction. In fact, he'll have the opportunity to make all sorts of different arguments. Romney won't have to pivot much, if the world around him goes for a spin.
Last fall, when your Speculatroners were assessing the emerging GOP race, there were, on a couple of occasions, where we sort of wrote off Rick Santorum as a guy that conservative voters liked but didn't actually want to vote for to be their party's nominee. At the time, these seemed evident on its face -- after all, he was habitually polling in the low single digits, and fighting for a place in the discussion alongside lesser lights, like Jon Huntsman. Well, we were wrong about Rick Santorum. Clearly. And in weird way, it's actually a little bit exhilirating to have been wrong about that. It's always a good thing to be surprised at the way our politics plays out. An underdog goes on a tear, wins a couple of states he shouldn't be winning, causes some trouble for the frontrunner or -- perhaps more importantly, that calcified "conventional wisdom" that sometimes ends up sticking to those who try to avoid it the most. If Rick Santorum managed to achieve anything with his campaign, it was to remind us that we don't always know what we think we know. And that's a good thing to be reminded of. Rick Santorum didn't have much going for him in the early stage of the race, and at the late stages, he had more, but not enough. But he got pretty far on pure tenacity. We did notice fairly early on that even though Santorum found himself way out on the wings of the stage at those first few GOP debates, there was no one better at jumping into a bit of dead air. While everyone else was catching their breath, Santorum was diving in. He carved out a presence for himself, and the spotlight slowly bent in his direction. Of all the various competitors to rise quickly and fall softly -- Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich -- Santorum was the unlikely guy who rose at the right time and managed to sustain himself. At later debates, he managed to build some elegant arguments off the cuff. And as the lights were going down on many of the early primary nights, he consistently greeted supporters with more sincerity and humanity than Mitt Romney ever managed. His was the heart that the Tin Man frontrunner coveted. There will be plenty of dissections over what specifically went wrong for Santorum. Some will point to instances like his famous "college is for snobs" discussion as a moment he lost the thread. Others will point to the late-reward he received in Iowa -- had he been properly anointed the king of the Iowa Caucus, perhaps he would have skipped New Hampshire and been the guy who laid the trap for Romney in South Carolina. I'd point to those final debates where Romney -- after largely being content to let his competitors brew up a bicker-fest with one another -- finally had to respect Santorum and treat him like a real competitor. And, of course, there are the fundamental problems: Santorum's candidacy was run on a shoestring budget, without the sort of support you need to target voters at the district level, ensure ballot access and delegate slates, and extract as much delegate support from the arcane state-level political processes as you can. But Santorum can leave the race and rejoin his family with his head high. He can also, perhaps, look ahead to a future Presidential run. If Romney falters in November, you can bet that the rank-and-file will rebel against moderate candidates with a frenzy. And Santorum will be the alternative they remember. Hey, at the very least, Rick Santorum doesn't have as big a "Google problem" as he used to.
Over the weekend, it really seemed that Newt Gingrich had managed to gain the insight he needed to understand two things. First, he was not going to win the nomination. Second, he wasn't going to swoop into Tampa with the leverage necessary to do much of anything, other than to maybe throw shade on Mitt Romney and remind everyone that Mitt is, to Newt's reckoning, insufficiently conservative. (Gingrich will probably be the last person in America to bitterly cling to Romney aide Eric Fehrnstrom's "Etch A Sketch" line.) On Fox News Sunday, Newt made two things pretty clear. First, he admitted that Romney was "far and away the most likely" person to win the nomination. And second, he was in a wee bit of debt. Like around $4.5 million in debt. And in this economy? Like, whoa. Things had gotten so bad that Newt actually bounced a check that was intended to pay to get him on the ballot in Utah Primary. Where, we remind you, he will get utterly obliterated by Mitt Romney. You can only get so far, coasting on a donor base that is largely delusional about your chances. Though Gingrich does still have the backing of failed New York gubrnatorial candidate and reprobate Carl Paladino, who said some encouraging things about Gingrich this week that involved calling a whole bunch of people "pussies." But if it seemed like Newt had finally gotten himself resigned to reality on Sunday morning, that ended up changing very quickly in the next few hours. By Monday, he was sounding like he was back in the race for the long haul. Gingrich explained that he was inspired by Bubba Watson's unlikely, sudden-death win in the weekend's Masters Tournament, and somehow extracted the lesson that he, too, was Bubba Watson. And when Rick Santorum announced that he was going to drop out, it further facilitated Gingrich's ability to take complete leave of his senses. Suddenly, it was a "two-man race" again, and Gingrich started talking about all of the delegates he was going to acquire, somehow, through magic and cunning stratagems from Lao Tzu, or something. Gingrich targeted Delaware -- which is not particularly brimming with delegates -- as the site of his resurrection. But Gingrich is still basically whipsawing back and forth, like that dude on that AWAKE show on NBC that keeps alternating between two dream-states. Or something? We do not actually follow this AWAKE show too closely. At any rate, one minute, Gingrich is making it clear that he would happily support Romney as the nominee. And the next minute, he's slagging Romney for being a terrible disaster. He says that he "probably wouldn't accept a job in Mitt Romney's Cabinet," but why on earth would Romney offer him one? Actually, that would be a great sitcom -- Romney and Gingrich, they hate each other but now they have to run the country! Thursday nights on NBC! (This would probably lead to AWAKE's cancellation. We think anyway. Is it a good show? Like we said, we don't follow it that closely, but seeing as we follow Newt Gingrich pretty closely, we're obviously gluttons for punishment.) Speaking of television, Newt Gingrich really, really doesn't want to have a job with Fox News, ever again. Or so it would seem. See, in the twilight hour of this campaign he's staging, Newt's decided to go out by burning down his master's house. Of the Fox News Channel, who had lately been willing to provide him with money, Gingrich said: I think FOX has been for Romney all the way through. In our experience, Callista and I both believe CNN is less biased than FOX this year. We are more likely to get neutral coverage out of CNN than we are of FOX, and we're more likely to get distortion out of FOX. That's just a fact. Fox responded to this by basically saying that Gingrich was "bitter" and desperate to get a gig at CNN. And they have a point! That does, indeed, sound like the desire of a desperate man.
This week, Ron Paul spent the bulk of his time campaigning in his home state of Texas. And his homecoming seems to have provided Paul with something of a jolt -- if you had, for some reason, picked a Paul event this week as your first foray into the 2012 campaign, you'd never know that this candidacy was far out of the running. Paul talking "revolution" on the stump this week like he just made up his mind to lead an insurgency yesterday, telling a Fort Worth crowd, "They ask me if I'm going to quit. I thought we were just getting started. We have a revolution to fight, a country to change." A San Antonio crowd got a reminder of the larger cause Paul projects ahead of his own presidential ambitions, with Paul declaiming, ""They like to pretend we don't exist, we don't have a campaign...But you can't stop a message whose time has come." And Texans elsewhere were treated to a new ad from Paul, which criticized all of his competitors, and brimmed with Lone Star State-sized swag. And, even as Newt Gingrich tries to conjure some way of earning some additional delegates, we were treated this week to Paul's "caucus strategy" team in action, doing the very work that Gingrich is still contemplating, in St. Charles County, Missouri: Supporters of U.S. Rep. Ron Paul took control of St. Charles County's second-try Republican caucus Tuesday night, winning all of its delegates to later stages of the state GOP's presidential selection process. The Paul campaign used superior organization to get its people to the meeting at the St. Charles Convention Center. More than 900 people took part overall. [...] Paul's caucus victory occurred even though he got less than 13 percent of the vote in the county in the nonbinding GOP presidential primary in February. Paul is far behind front-runner Mitt Romney in national delegate totals. "They worked hard, were well organized and they got the turnout," Karen Fesler, the disappointed state director of Rick Santorum's campaign, said of the victorious Paul team. Paul's crew is still just putting on a clinic in this nuts-and-bolts arena, and probably giving more exposure to the arcane state-level electoral process than we've ever seen. And while you still got to call Paul's chances remote, you know his people will be making a big deal out of the latest Rasmussen Poll: Republican Presidential candidate Ron Paul again polls better against President Barack Obama in a head-to-head matchup than establishment-choice moderate Mitt Romney, according to a poll released today from Rasmussen. The poll notes that in a general election matchup, the 12-term Congressman from Texas edges out Obama by 1 percentage point, 44 to 43 percent. The survey also notes that in a hypothetical 2012 head-to-head, Obama and Romney are tied at 45 percent, which bodes poorly for Republicans being urged to believe the race is over, only to later experience buyer's remorse. And, as Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake point out, Paul has one other thing that Gingrich does not have at this point -- leverage: ...when it comes to the future of the contest, it's hard to dispute that Paul matters more than Gingrich. As we have written before, Paul has a group of supporters whose ardor for his message is far greater than any other candidate can boast. Not only that, but Paul's backers are loyal first and foremost to Paul -- not to the Republican party. And that's what makes Paul potentially influential as the race moves forward. A Paul third-party candidacy would, barring some sort of unforeseen dynamic, likely hand President Obama a second term. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and his campaign team understand the power that Paul could wield and have gone out of their way to befriend him -- and avoid alienating his supporters. At some point between now an August, Paul and his people will want something -- a speaking slot at the national convention? Consideration of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul as a running mate? -- from Romney World. But while Paul's staying in the race, and letting folks know that any call to get behind Romney is premature, attention is being given, all the same, to what Paul has managed to achieve with this latest run for the White House, and what the future of Paul's movement might look like. Micah Cohen, performing a "living autopsy" on Paul's campaign, finds that the Congressman made some impressive gains in the past four years: Mr. Paul's share of the overall vote has more than doubled. He won 10 percent of the cumulative vote in the 32 states that have voted so far this year. In the states that voted on or before Super Tuesday in 2008 (27 states), Mr. Paul received just 4 percent. In both elections, Mr. Paul performed better in time-intensive caucuses than in primaries, helped by the enthusiasm of his supporters. Although, the difference was less pronounced this year. Mr. Paul finished almost a full spot higher, on average, in caucuses than in primaries in 2008. In 2012, he averaged about a half spot higher in caucuses. As Cohen notes, that one area in which he seemed to fall short was in fundraising. This comes as a mild surprise. Though this is perhaps no fault of Paul's -- the economic conditions were much better during Paul's last run for the White House, as the economic calamity that likely stole the sort of disposable income that grass-roots political supporters can provide a candidate didn't occur until Paul was out of the race. What comes after Paul quits this race? In all likelihood, the young voters he's brought to his side will continue to fly the flag -- perhaps with Rand Paul marching in his father's place. Go back to that article about his team working for delegates in St. Charles County. That's a group of people who could return in 2016 with a pretty advanced understanding of how politics at these out-of-sight but critically important lever points work. They'll have lessons to extract about what works and what doesn't. They'll be able to repeat their techniques, adapt to new ones, train campaign workers and downticket candidates, and essentially become a political organization that's as passionate about the process as they are about the vision. Basically, this movement has come a long way since that time they were all about flying blimps around.
Buddy Roemer's third party effort (we suppose that because he's seeking the Reform Party ballot and the Americans Elect nomination that maybe this should be a "third and fourth party" effort) continues apace. Roemer, as you well know, is right at home on Twitter, and has lately taken to staging "Twitter town halls" with supporters and curiosity seekers, when he's not using the forum to blast messages about the bleak state of the political system and his competition, which, to Roemer's reckoning, is fairly money-corrupted. (He's not wrong!) Roemer had the opportunity this week to speak at length on the latter matter at an appearance at Tulane University. In his address, Roemer denounced both parties as "married at the billfold." While his criticisms focused on President Obama, he often couched them by mentioning that they were not personal, but that Obama is simply a product of the corrupt political system. For example, Roemer complained that the president's signature legislative accomplishment, health care reform, has so many concessions to the insurance, pharmaceutical and hospital industries that it will result in a more costly medical system overall. "You think your vote counts?" Roemer said. "No, it doesn't. The only time you count is when you're old enough or rich enough or desperate enough to give a big check to a politician." Those same special interests dominate policy making at every level of government, Roemer said. After the passage of controversial banking reform legislation -- which he said still allows "too big to fail" banks that were the basis of the banking crisis -- Obama held a Wall Street fundraiser hosted by investment firm Goldman Sachs. "I think America's in trouble," Roemer said. "I think we've allowed our government to be run by GE and Goldman Sachs." Also in trouble, though? Roemer's hopes for gaining the Americans Elect nomination, where he's falling short of the threshold of support the organization established as his own benchmark. He's making what effort he can to get over the hump, directing that what warchest he has be spent on signing up the delegates he needs to qualify. As Austin Cassidy reports, he's a ways to go: "Thus far, only about 3,000 people in total have signed-up to back the former Louisiana governor in his quest for a spot on all 50 state ballots. What's worse is that in Roemer's very best state, California, he's only about 30% of the way to the required threshold." And Roemer is actually doing better than anyone else at securing the Americans Elect nomination, all of which leads Cassidy to ask a few pressing questions: With the recent signs of trouble coming from the non-profit organization, it's unclear how the process would move forward if no candidate managed to secure the required support. Would Americans Elect cease to exist? Would their millions in ballot access spending go totally to waste? Yeah, spoiler alert: the answers to those inquiries are "yes" and "yes."
Fred Karger, despite being the longest of shots and getting longer to win the nomination, aint quit this race yet. And he's not likely to do so anytime soon, if his interview with The Times Of Israel is any guide: I've always been a long shot -- I've said that from day one. I've never run for office before. My entire goal, and it still is, is to get in one debate, and if that happens, anything is possible. We've seen what happened to Herman Cain, a classic example -- he was in the first debate in South Carolina last May, and he went from zero to ahead of Romney in Iowa. So my strategy was two-fold: It was to get into one of the early debates. I came very close -- I qualified for the Ames, Iowa, Fox News debate last August, but then they changed the rules to keep me out... Now I'm hoping that the field narrows to two, and I'll be the third candidate... That has been my strategy all along, and we're right on track. "I'm not ruling Fred Karger out just yet. I'm one debate away," says Karger. But even though he's pressing on in the race for the nomination, we've noticed that lately he's been willing to spend more time working another debate that he is, perhaps, even more passionate about -- marriage equality, and his ongoing battle with the National Organization For Marriage (NOM). A week ago, Karger was highlighting Mitt Romney's $10,000 donation to the group, and pointing out hos NOM had been playing fast and loose with their money and their public statements. This week, he ramped up his attacks on NOM, by targeting it's figurehead, Maggie Gallagher, and her own marriage. In an email to supporters, Karger referred to Gallagher as a "bigocrite" (think "bigot" meets "hypocrite") and went on to wonder if the state of Gallagher's own marriage wasn't lacking: Where's Your Wedding Ring, Maggie?? According to WikiAnswers only 9.3% of American women don't wear a wedding ring, a pretty small number. Certainly this national champion of marriage whose twitter name is @MaggieMarriage would wear a wedding ring if she was really married. Tell the Truth, Maggie I first became suspicious when you spoke in Rhode Island two years ago at NOM's "Celebrate Marriage & Family Day." If ever there was a day to appear with your husband that was it. I even scoured Google images, not one photo of you and Raman. NOM's Brian Brown is all over Google. There are lots of photos of Brian with his wife and family. I smell a rat, Maggie. In a funny echo of the Birthers, Karger signed off: "Let's see your marriage license, Maggie. Better yet, let's see your husband!" So, when Karger's quest for the nomination ends, you get a good sense of the cause he'll be turning to. And he'll have a higher profile to put to use.
Gary Johnson's campaign trail has, of late, been a pretty clear road. He's been crisscrossing the United States, lining up support for his Libertarian Party bid for the presidency, and quietly building to seven percent in the head-to-head polls that included him. And up to now, the experience has seemed to be a refreshing and uncomplicated one for the former New Mexico Governor. So at some point, he had to figure that he'd catch some criticism and backlash. And as it turns out, this was the week that happened. I think the important thing now is to make sure Obama is not elected,and that means in my mind, I would love for a libertarian like Gary Johnson the two term governor of New Mexico would actually get elected President, but I think we all know that's not going to happen so therefore it's got to be Romney there is no choice. That's Wayne Allyn Root, the Libertarian Party's vice presidential candidate from 2008, weighing on the matter. Now, Root's comments managed to attract some Johnson defenders. (Which is understandable, considering that Root ran under the same banner, without concern for whose election he was spoiling!) But somehow, this broke the seal, and it was suddenly okay to start criticizing Johnson again. To be sure, these other critics had a perfectly decent argument to make. Johnson sat down this week with reporters from the Daily Caller, to talk foreign policy, and those reporters were quick to notice an inconsistency: Johnson said that while he wants to end the war in Afghanistan, that doesn't mean he would necessarily stop drone attacks against terrorists in Pakistan or Yemen, even though he believes they create more enemies than they kill. "I would want leave all options on the table," Johnson said. "But there's an unintended consequence when it comes to drone attacks in Yemen," he continued. "Yeah, you take out the al-Qaida stronghold, but you also wipe out the other half of the block. That makes Yemenis against the United States for the rest of their lives and all their descendants." But if Johnson plans on leaving Afghanistan, how does he plan to leave the option of a drone campaign against al-Qaida elements in Pakistan on the table? And that inconsistency was of even greater importance to the libertarians Johnson was courting, who had come to expect Johnson to be a voice against militarism. Thomas Mullen, writing for the Washington Times "communities" pages, voiced this criticism the best: Johnson proposes to cut the military budget by 43 percent. However, when pressed on one hypothetical military intervention after another, Johnson refuses to rule any out. He'd consider military intervention for humanitarian reasons. He believes that the United States should maintain a military presence in the Middle East. He would continue drone attacks in Pakistan. By the end of the interview, libertarians were likely waiting for Johnson to rip off a mask Scooby Doo villain-style, revealing he was really Dick Cheney in disguise. [...] Libertarians make policy decisions based upon the non-aggression principle. Recognizing that all government activity is a mandate backed with a threat of violence, libertarians understand that every policy either responds to aggression or perpetrates it. There is no third choice. Cost and benefit are not factors in libertarian decision-making. That the government costs far less when limited to responding to aggression is one result of libertarianism, but not its governing standard. There is no evidence that Gary Johnson is even aware of the philosophical basis of libertarianism. If he is aware of it, he's obviously decided to reject it. That's certainly his prerogative, but he shouldn't be seeking the Libertarian Party's nomination. Well, he did say he'd lower the drinking age. That's pretty cool, right?
Doesn't it seem like just two weeks ago, the Obama campaign was really concerned that their supporters were going to get complacent, assume that the President had re-election in the bag, and figure that it was just going to be easy? If it seems like that, that's because they were -- and they were taking great pains to instill worry and fear. Two weeks later, Buzzfeed's Michael Hastings and Ben Smith drop in on Obama HQ, and they find the same worries have magnified in a campaign that's currently giving in to their worst tendencies: "To say that the campaign doesn't fear Romney is an understatement -- he's viewed as almost a joke." Some of Obama's old Chicago allies however, say they worry that the campaign is getting a little too cocky. Months of blockbuster economic data were interrupted by a March jobs report that missed expectations. Obama allies fear that the president's team will get caught flatfooted on the economy if growth slows down between now and Election Day. And complacency? Got that too: Axelrod described what he saw as "complacency" among donors in face of what is likely to be a $700 million to $800 million onslaught from the Romney campaign and their Super PACs. "That's why we took the position that we took that we need to support the [Obama Super PAC] effort," he said. "There is still ambivalence on the part of people. Perhaps people are too complacent because the Republican race has been so much of a spectacle." Perhaps. And maybe the burden of cockiness and complacency is helped along by a strong run for the incumbent in polls, various and sundry. Obama's approval ratings continue to edge upward. Poll respondents say that he is "more likable" than Romney. Obama leads with swing state independents. And in North Carolina -- one of the key states into which Obama expanded Democratic support in 2008 -- he's opened up a decent five-point lead. And, of course, the biggest advantage Obama has at the moment is that the grueling and often debasing GOP primary season has put him on the right side of a giant gender gap, and the campaign is gleefully working to maintain it. "Women are not an interest group," said Obama, whilst addressing -- wait for it! -- a women's issue forum. He went on to raise the rhetorical: "Is it possible that Congress would get more done if there were more women in congress?...I think it's fair to say: That is almost guaranteed." Yeah, so, as you can see, it's totally possible to lay this on a little thick. But you would be hard-pressed to call a celebration of any of these polling advantages as anything other than premature. There are plenty of factors that can bring them back down to earth, and make this a close race. The economy, for example, is still the economy -- fragile, fraught and easily shaken. And this week, the Obama got a jobs report that did not immediately have them reaching for Chivas and cupcakes. If the recent jobs report is the beginning of a stall, or a pitch back into bad news, Romney will be able to advantage himself. And there are plenty of political decisions that can go wrong and policy outcomes that can head into SNAFUland. For example, the latest incarnation of a plan to help needy homeowners looks like it's going to be a big fat bust like most of the others. Obama's decision to embrace the GOP's JOBS Act looks like a gesture that will either be cynical or harmful or both -- as Matt Taibbi points outs, it's tough to see Obama's decision to sign on to plan that will allow more fraudulent shenanigans from sketchy start-up companies as anything other than a reward to his Silicon Valley donor base. And the latest perplexing decision came only two days ago, when the Obama administration gave out that they would be delaying the implementation of an executive order that was intended to prevent federal contractors from discriminating against members of the LGBT community. We don't have the first damn idea what the policy benefit is for delaying this, and we can even begin to fathom what likely group of Obama voters this panders to. For the umpteenth time, your Speculatroners will remind you that we forecast a tight race. These are some of the reasons why.
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